IDPA Rules question

One of the issues I’ve had with IDPA that isn’t addressed by the new rulebook is the “reloading behind cover”.  IDPA clearly stipulates that all reloads must begin and end “behind cover”, an even specifies that cover means that 50% of your torso must be concealed from the target to be “behind cover”.  Here’s my question, and to do it I’ll give you a scenario from a match.

Start at Position 1, in the open.  You have two targets in the open that you must engage on your way to Position 2.   Other than the two targets in the open, you are not exposed to any targets during the movement from P1 to P2, and are not exposed to any targets at P2 until you start slicing the pie.

Based on my understanding of IDPA’s rules, once the two targets in the open are neutralized (shot), then you would be considered “behind cover” as you are not visible to any threat targets at the time.  The way I understand “cover” is that it doesn’t matter if already engaged targets can see you, because they’re shot up anyway.  So in my situation above, say that after you shot the first two targets you had to engage 5 more targets (making this a 14 round stage).  I would do a reload with retention after engaging the first two targets on my way to P2 so I had a fully charged gun to finish the COF.  I figure that I’m behind cover the whole time since no un-engaged targets can see me.

This is one thing that I do wish that IDPA would clear up with the next rules update – it seems logical to me, but I have seen safety officers say that you’re not behind cover unless you’re hugging the available barricade.

What say my IDPA guys out there?


  1. We had a very similar stage at the FoWWP Gateway Classic. They interpreted the rule as you do. We engaged one array of targets. We had about 15 yds of movement before engaging the second array. We could not see the second array while moving because of cover. We were allowed to reload with retention while moving. I think that they (and you) have it right.

    Another similar issue has come up with our club. Start behind cover and engage some targets. Then move from cover and engage targets in the open. If shooters run empty in the open, should they retreat (say, 5 yds) to cover to reload before moving forward again?

    As MD, I say yes. In fact, they should have reloaded before moving from cover in the first place. Others have said that, at 5 yds away, cover wasn’t “available”. I believe that wasn’t the intent of the rule. It seems that the new rule clarification clears this up.

  2. Agreed, it is nice to see that “cover must be used” is now in the rules, that ends that discussion. The problem is now “what is cover”?

  3. “If shooters run empty in the open, should they retreat (say, 5 yds) to cover to reload before moving forward again?”

    My understanding/interpretation is yes, if they cannot advance without exposing themselves to targets, they have to retreat to the last available cover to reload.

    That said, does that count as a “cover violation” procedural if they run dry while exposed to unneutralized targets? (say they shoot and miss, and then run dry?)

  4. Sadly, that is not addressed by the new rules. However, it would seem that the new rule would encourage a shooter to do a RWR before leaving cover to guarantee they had enough BBs to make it through the course.

  5. If I were SOing Caleb in the example that started this, I would see nothing wrong. You were not exposed to any non-neutralized threats, therefore were behind cover.

    If some SOs call that as a violation because you were not close enough to cover, it’s only because they suffer from the (sadly) common misconception that cover must be touched or hugged or something for it to be cover.
    Not that I have a pet peeve about that or anything.
    Any target you can’t see you are behind cover from.

    In the example given by Joe, I would say yes, they should retreat/return to cover to reload.
    In that example however, I am assuming that after leaving cover, the shooter is truly in the open and not advancing to another position behind cover and catching the targets while on the way. If that is the case and they run dry, they should head to the nearest cover, whether forward or backward, to reload.

    (I know people can get caught in that predicament from missing a lot, but I have seen it from charging blindly out away from cover with a half-full gun too, and that deserves all the trouble they get.)

  6. I’m in 100% agreement with that. IDPA is supposed to test your ability to THINK with a gun in your hands, and if you run out of bullets while crossing a gap and have to retreat to reload it’s your own fault. Should have topped off behind the wall!

    The other thing I’m trying to do is shoot IDPA like I shoot USPSA – namely reloading when it makes sense in the COF, not just when the gun is empty. This means a lot more retention reloads, but I’ve realized that if I practice a retention reload it doesn’t cost me as much time as you’d think.

  7. If the point of IDPA is to be “tactical” then it shouldn’t matter whether or not you’re exposed to targets that have already been deemed neutralized.

    This is one of the things that kind of bugs me about IDPA. The intentions behind making competitors use cover and other reasonably real-world style tactics are a good idea, but the implementation is sorely lacking.

  8. Well, and here’s my reasoning – when you’re slicing the pie, you’re exposed to targets you’ve already shot but you’re still “behind cover”. So if you have two targets out in the open and they’re shot, then you’re once again “behind cover” provided that no un-engaged targets are visible.

    Someday, Bill Wilson will die and I shall eat his heart to gain his power take over IDPA and things will be DIFFERENT.

  9. Things will be different? You mean instead of stopping the fight to pocket a useless empty mag, we might actually be able to dump it if we have a round in the chamber and continue eliminating the threat, as taught at, oh, let’s see, every defensive shooting school in the country?

    And I promised I would stay away from that when I saw the heading “IDPA Rules”.

    Don’t get me started on the 10mm not being good enough for CDP.

  10. Engaging targets with a grande mocha latte and a .25 pimpgun is not the DIFFERENT I’m looking for, Dear Leader. 8^)

    I know it’s a game and games need rules, but I’d really prefer it if they were kept loose. Course designers and Match Directors, IMO, already have a hard enough time keeping things interesting and different from month-to-month. We already make concessions to the square range, the 180 Rule, the dreaded Common Sense, etc.

    Gunfights, by all accounts, are chaotic and always leave the good guy with the need to choose the best option in a peck of bad ones. Having the decisions and choreography laid out for the shooter during the walk through takes away some of that chaos. I’m not saying that these changes do that, but I’d hate to see things move in that direction.

  11. Thanks for the review!

    I tend to shoot more USPSA, but like IDPA – different software test, if you will – and your discussion of the rules is a great help.

  12. The last Nationals I shot (years back) there were issues exactly as the one mentioned above. The answer at that time was that you must move to the next point of cover before beginning your reload. In fact on one stage they purposely had you go dry while out in the open and then you weren’t even allowed to begin your reload until you got to cover. How it is “untactical” to start reloading your gun as soon as it’s empty is utterly beyond me.

    As for the idea that folks “should” RWR/TR before leaving cover, that’s not going to fly. Either mandate it or don’t, but expecting people to voluntarily do a flat footed RWR instead of a flatfooted (or better yet, on the move) slidelock reload is silly.

    Of course, the idea that you’d stop to reload your gun when you know there are active armed threats on the other side of a wall is pretty silly, too, and a great example of how focusing one’s training on static non-threatening cardboard can lead to some ridiculously bad concepts of what is “tactically correct.”

  13. Now that I agree with – what I’d really like IDPA to do is say “hey you know what, shoot this thing how you like it” and then let the shooter figure out what was the fastest route through the course.

    But until someone gives me a couple million dollars so I can buy IDPA, that won’t happen.

  14. “Shoot this thing how you like it”!?!? Isn’t there another game for that?

    I doubt IDPA would change the rules to make people reload before leaving cover (regardless of it being at least as “tactically sound” as taking the time to do a tac reload in the middle of an active gunfight), so that leaves us with good learning opportunities by setting up potential issues that show any benefits it might have. If, after shooting a few scenarios where they run dry in the open after having started behind cover, then have to go back to cover, it might convince some people that reloading before leaving cover is something to at least consider doing in the future.
    I like things like that. Things that might not ruin the match for you, but still make you think about them later and consider options you didn’t before.

  15. Barry — I have to disagree. Teaching people to ‘reload before leaving cover’ sounds good on paper, but the reality is that in Real Life(TM) you have no way of knowing whether a BG is about to come around the corner and brain you while you’re reloading. That’s why you almost never see such reloads in force on force training… when the active threat can actually think and move, it’s a lot harder to find the comfort of a “lull in the fight.”

    In the context of an IDPA stage, I know there are more threats close by. Doing anything that might even temporarily disable or inhibit my pistol seems ill timed…

  16. Which leads me to the speed reload concept, and why IDPA should allow it. If I even think my gun is almost out of bullets, I want it to be full of bullets again as fast as possible, and I don’t really care if there are two rounds in the old magazine.

  17. Good point Todd. If the targets are real, those that were behind the next wall five seconds ago might not be when you have a gun with no mag in it.

    But on the other hand, there are surely times when it is best to have a full gun and times when it’s best to get moving, and running those types of scenarios might make people see examples of times when each way succeeds or fails. So many IDPA scenarios end up being so rigid “this is THE way” and I’d like to see more demonstrations that options can be good…or can bite you.

    And Caleb, I am in 100% agreement on speed reloads. The object is to get metal on meat ASAP. Neutralize threats NOW.
    If there are any threats still standing, I want to speed load. I don’t know of any school teaching otherwise, though there might be.

    IMO, The tac reload is a good skill to have, but not stressed. At least not like IDPA stresses it.

  18. I got a PE on this rule in one instance and almost another in an other instance.

    The first scenario was that you had a window and a closed door. There were two targets in the window and more behind the door, that you couldn’t see until the door was opened. the directions were to shoot the two targets in the window, then perform a tactical reload behind cover before opening the door. I neutralized the two targets through the window crossed the window and reloaded before opening the door and I got dinged with a PE. My take on it was that I had neutralized the threats and I was still behind cover, too bad to RO didn’t see it that way.

    The second time was when the instructions said that you had to shoot the targets on the move or behind cover. I shot the first targets on the move and the last four from cover. I sliced the pie and neutralized the first two that were close together, then moved out to engage the second two from behind cover and again got a procedural. My interpretation of the rules was that after I neutralized the first two targets I was still behind cover. The violation was for not shooting it on the move, not a cover violation. This one was later removed after some discussion.

    I really sucks when you are trying to follow the rules and still get PEs.

  19. My beef with the IDPA rules concern No-Shoots.
    The limitation on the number of N-S to Bad-Guys means that no legal stage can simulate a mass shooting (school or mall). If there are 3x BGs to N-S, then it doesn’t match reality.
    Also, deliberately targeting N-S to hit the BG behind it should be a DQ. Try shooting an innocent person in real life to take out a bad guy and you’ll be heading for the slammer in no time.

  20. I agree with that, too. There are no limits to no-shoots in real life.
    I could see many realistic scenarios with a couple of threats in a group of no-shoots that look wide open but would actually need to be shot from just the right angle to keep from dinging a no-shoot.

    And I’ve thought the penalty for nailing a no-shoot should be higher for a while.

    I’m even more in favor of increasing the penalty for an FTN. That should hurt more than it does.
    I know it would cause an outcry, but I wouldn’t be too upset if the FTN penalty was doubled or more. This would never fly, but I could even see an argument for getting a zero for the scenario. After all, in real life, if you end the scenario with a threat still active, you fail and you die.
    It would make for a lot of zero scores on scenarios at first, but it would quickly reduce FTNs. And that is more to our benefit than saying it’s impossible to carry 5″ revolvers. Oops, there I go again.

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